2011 Executive Board
President: Lisa Duskin-Goede
Vice-Pres: Mary Kay Gaybriel
Secretary/Treasurer: Jennifer Bott
The observation of folklore has been around long before written or pictographic records, though written accounts of the study and preservation of folklore in Utah only date back to 1891. Early Utah folklorists were not university professors or officials of any folklore organization. They were simply people who were enthusiastic about the traditions and cultures they observed or were part of. In the 1930s, the nationwide wave of interest in rural and working-class life that coincided with the Great Depression also reached Utah. This trend led to the development of regional folklore in the Great Basin and in the West.
Utah folklore studies were spurred on in the late 1950s and early '60s, as in other states, by the folksong revival, a wave of national interest in folk music that owed much to the popularity of such urban-based performers as the Weavers, Harry Belafonte, Burl Ives, and the Kingston Trio. All across the country, folksingers, university students, labor organizers, and musicians banded together in folk music and folk dance clubs, founded coffee houses, organized concerts, and started small record companies to market their own musical talents and those of the venerable musicians of Appalachia and the Deep South whom they so admired. Folk festivals modeled after the largest and best-publicized, the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, sprang up, as did local, state, and regional folklore societies.
Utah was very much part of this trend, with local performers like Rosalie and Jim Sorrels and Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips leading the revival. The Folklore Society of Utah, however, sprang not from the folksong revival but from the efforts of university-based academics. Wayland Hand, a Salt Lake City native teaching at UCLA, returned to Utah in 1957 to teach in the summer school at the University of Utah. His appointment had been arranged by Dean Harold Bentley of the Extension Division, who had long been interested in Utah folklore. On July 22, a "Folklore Evening" was held in the Student Union. Hand, whose enthusiasm for folklore matters was very contagious, spoke on "Folklore in America" and advocated organizing a folklore society on the model of other state-based groups.
With a group of converts in place, the Folklore Society of Utah launched its inaugural event on 30 June 1958, with one hundred people in attendance. In 1972, for the first time in the society's history, students were actively encouraged to present at the annual meeting. Today, the Folklore Society of Utah’s annual meeting includes a wonderful mix of presentations by undergraduate and graduate students, academic folklorists, and public-sector folklorists.
Taken from: Stanley, David, ed. Folklore in Utah: A History and Guide to Resources. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2004.